Signing Gas Leases to Help Protect Our Water Supply

The nonprofit corporations managing land in what is known as New Vrindaban own 1135 acres of mineral rights. The overall acreage of McCreary’s Ridge where these 1135 acres are located is well over 4000 acres, meaning that New Vrindaban only has about 25% of the mineral rights on the ridge.

What is important to understand is that these 1135 acres are NOT contiguous, which is to say it isn’t all in one block. It is a patchwork of parcels mixed in with more than 3000 other acres.

At the time New Vrindaban managers were contemplating whether or not to sign gas leases, 55% (over 2,200 acres) of the ridge was already leased, and more private landowners were on the verge of signing. This meant all of New Vrindaban’s properties were going to have wells drilled next to them whether we signed leases or not. For example, the first well drilled on the ridge, the Snyder 1H, is on a neighboring property right next to Bahulaban.

The existing leases were split between two companies, Chesapeake Energy and AB Resources. Which ever company we signed with would become the dominant Lessee of gas rights and would in all likelihood trade leases (from different ridges) with the other company to get a solid block. FYI, the Snyder 1H well is an AB well, on a lease signed over 4 years ago.

At the time we were contemplating signing, the new leases being signed on the ridge were with Chesapeake.

The Palace is at about 1200′ elevation. It is a 400’ drop to Wheeling Creek where the water wells that supply the Temple and Palace complex are located. The water wells are 200 feet deep, which means the water source is 600’ below ridge level. The gas companies drill about 6000′ deep from the top of the ridge, not in the hollows.

Gas well bore holes are cased with metal pipe. To help seal it, the first part of the bore hole is also cased with concrete. Chesapeake’s leases say they will double case the drill bore with concrete to 300′. AB agreed to double case the bore hole to 1000′. Ergo Chesapeake would have ended the double casing 300’ ABOVE the water source and AB will go 400′ below the water source.

Being aware of the publicity about Marcellus gas drilling contaminating water wells, we felt that this possibility needed to be considered. It was deemed that signing with AB was a preemptive move to prevent Chesapeake from gaining enough leases to take over the ridge.

Drilling on the ridge was inevitable; there was nothing we could have done to stop it so we attempted to get the best possible situation with some leverage over drilling practices, i.e., getting 1000’ of concrete casing from AB instead of Chesapeake’s 300’. If we hadn’t signed with AB, Chesapeake would have taken the ridge. Signing with AB minimized the potential of damage to the water system.

Here was a case where inaction in the form of not signing gas leases would have had a potentially worse result than if we signed the lease with the more environmentally responsible company.

In our next report we will discuss the Rule of Capture, whereby gas companies can take the gas from underneath your property even if you haven’t signed a lease with them.

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